Read: Joshua 14:1-15
A gap year, like anything else, can be a fruitful growing time or simply be a delaying of the next steps of life. Either the graduate grows and enlarges his/her life or the time is simply frittered away. Whichever of these scenarios is true, it is the student who sets the parameters of her/his gap year and chooses when to move on.
If I may, I would like to expand the meaning of gap year and apply it to those of us who belong to Jesus. A gap year is the time between when we trust in God's promises and the time we see them fulfilled. Two things are certain about this kind of a gap year:
It frequently lasts far longer than a year; although, occasionally God surprises us and it lasts far less.
Unlike the gap year which has parameters set by an individual, God determines how long each of our gap years will be. Often this period of time lasts longer than we would choose.
Let's look at Caleb in order to observe a man who thrived prior, during and after his unexpected gap year. Joshua 14 provides us with the Reader's' Digest condensed version of his life. When we first encounter Caleb, he had been sent out by Moses to spy out the land of promise. He was one of twelve men who were to bring back some fresh produce from the Israelite's soon to be home and report the state of the cities and fortifications they observed. Caleb gave an honest assessment. The produce was lush, and the land was good but well-fortified. However, he did not stop there. He told the people that with God, they surely could take the land, in spite of the size of some of its inhabitants. Caleb should have not had a gap year. The people should have listened to him and Joshua and gone to conquer the enemies of God. The time was right, and they would have succeeded, according to the sure promise of God.
Sadly, the people listened to the ten spies whose words caused them to shrink back in terror. That was when Caleb received his tough news. He, along with the rest of the people would spend close to an additional four decades going around and around in circles, until the generation of men who listened to the bad report died in the wilderness. How was it to get up each day of that almost 40 years, knowing that this time was needlessly extended because of the unfaithfulness of others? Caleb had a choice, and the scriptures say that he served God wholeheartedly, Joshua 14, 8-9; Joshua 14:14. When we read Caleb's words in this chapter, it is apparent that weariness and bitterness hadn't dimmed his desire to receive the land God had promised 45 years earlier. When the gap year ended, Caleb was ready to receive all that God had reserved for him.
As we begin a new year, many of us continue to find ourselves in a gap year. Surely, each of us is waiting for the wondrous things God has promised us at the judgment seat for believers, 1 Corinthians 3:8-15. Sometimes, it seems that Jesus will come momentarily; yet, at other times, we wonder if His appearing is not as near as we anticipate. Either way, His promise to return is as certain as God's promise to keep Caleb alive during his long gap year. With God's enabling, we can continue to serve wholeheartedly as Caleb did.
Waiting for Jesus' return isn't the only gap year we are experiencing. If you are like me, the turning of the calendar brought with it a continuation of more than one of God's promises which has not yet been fulfilled. Situations and circumstances that are on-going. We feel a bit like the children of Israel as they circled around the mountain over and over again. We don't know how long we will be walking through each gap year, but we do have the opportunity to be faithful with what God calls us to do each day, 1 Corinthians 4:2. Serving the Lord by doing what we can, just as Caleb did.
Practically speaking, with one year at an end and another one having just begun, how do we not become discouraged when the gap years are often on-going? What about enlisting the help of a tear-off calendar? The kind that has a verse, thought or question for each day. Perhaps this idea sounds trivial, but someone might find it helpful? Once a day is completed, tear off its page, and symbolically give it to Jesus, knowing He has seen our faithfulness, Matthew 10:42. He has also forgiven our sins and has continued to cleanse us from all unrighteousness, 1 John 1:7. He is also at work in unseen ways we can't even imagine, Ephesians 3:20, working all things for our good and His Glory, Romans 8:28. With these truths in mind, our gap years are not throw-away times, but individual days that we can rest in Jesus' keeping.
Lord, we long to see many of Your promises fulfilled in 2020. Help us to love You and serve You wholeheartedly and look with expectation for Your answers to prayer, Psalm 5:1-3.